Posts Tagged ‘Inclusion’


It was a blessed time of discussion. Much like what can happen around a coffee or meal at my home. And yes, the crazy neurology kept at bay, the data banks were tested, and the memory was strong.

It was great to be on Light News Radio today, and for the Holy Week reflection series (yes even unannounced I am sure you noticed there was one happening). I thought I would share the discussion for all to hear.

Please feel free to share freely this post, so the talk can hopefully percolate other conversations as we strive to break down barriers, draw the circle wide, and allow for authentic belonging fully knowing and embracing the risks that takes:

https://www.spreaker.com/user/boldradiostation/the-distinction-between-inclusion-and-be?autoplay=true

(Also know, this was my first “public” speaking/teaching time on spirituality since my last sermon at Centennial Presbyterian 8 months after performing my Mum’s funeral…so that is since Stampede 2014. Another blessing my time away due to medical challenges has accomplished.).


I have been on a journey…quite a lifetime of a journey…on creating space for persons to belong. It is why some have read previous posts and have blatantly stated that I do not believe in inclusion, accessibility and/or affirming ministries.

WRONG!!!

I am a 21st century Canadian. I believe this is where we should be resonating and existing at as community already. Accessibility is a need, but is a physical transformation of space, that can be forgiven if there is a plan to move forward, or allowances and aids to help. Inclusion means that the circle has been drawn wide enough so that regardless of label there is a space for you, and affirming is the simple act that you deserve to exist with the same dignity, rights and privileges as everyone else, because, well you are a human being. The fact we allow ourselves to backslide back into these old debates is astoundingly annoying, hurtful and a waste of time.

Where the conversation, and behaviour needs to happen in community, but especially within the Christianities is within belonging. Belonging is messy, because the first three are the starting point so it is no longer the person’s label at play. We seek to understand how they experience the world, and what is needed for their full vocational fulfillment within our world.  It is the calling Brother Jesus laid on our hearts/souls/beings with his teachings out of the Shema (the great love commandments of God, Neighbour and Self) that he then reflected in the Parable of the Good Samaritan in answer to the legalist (read we will keep arguing inclusion, accessibility and affirming just because we are scared of change and sharing power) who asked him “who is my neighbour?”.

The risk of knowing neighbour, and of belonging as written of earlier is that we risk missing the person or being missed. BUT…there is more.

When one truly belongs. One takes ownership of the 5 W’s and H of the belonging. You will hear phrases of “This is my home” or “This is my community” or “My crew/group/residents/patients/clients/customers/students” or “my team” or “my church”. Why? Because they are resonating in belonging to something they were meant to be a part of. It is not about prestige, titles, or money (or anything else to feed ego). It is truly doing what one is meant to do. Being where one is meant to be.

Notice the words: being, be… B-E-L-O-N-G.

Take time in your life, what do you take ownership of authentically?

Why do you take that ownership?

What does this say about what your values are?

If the legalist came to you and asked, “who is my neighbour?” what is your story of ownership? Of Being? Of belonging?

 


Please note: like with other resources I have pointed out the population touched upon can be transitioned to any group seeking belonging, for this article and from my reflections it is persons with disabilities. But it can be the experience of anyone physically or linguistically included, but not belonging.

On March 13, 2018 news broke that Stephen Hawking had passed away. What his passing on the surface revealed is the shallowness of inclusion/affirming culture as the tripe and trout statements for a person with disabilities who had passed were drawn out. “he is finally free of his wheelchair” was one “winning comment”. Showing ableism at its finest. accessibleIt is the type of world where it is okay to still see those who are differently abled as less than; allows the Calgary Board of Education to scape goat children with disabilities for their institutions inability to manage money or tell parents from administrators that there is only stress because you chose to bring THAT life into the world. It is the world where Christianities and other religions easily peddle ideas of “wholeness in heaven” or “if only you believed harder there would be healing”.

These are ideas in inclusive (read—you are welcome, if you do not challenge our notions) and accessible (that is there is adequate close parking, ramps and bars as coded by law) communities. Ones that still allow for the idea that persons with disabilities do not speak; or how wonderful it will be to see them in “heaven/paradise” (pick your form of afterlife) so they will be whole, able to talk, and run freely and really see who they truly are.

This is not belonging. As written about in Risk of Belonging and Risk of Belonging 2 it is about moving beyond these spaces that allow for bullying, allow for entrenchment of us and them. Moving to an understanding that each and everyone of us is different, and as such to fully participate within community as we are called/created to be, means that we need different supports/encouragement/aides. It is belonging by putting value on what the person brings to the community by being there, being apart of, their intrinsic worth and goodness as a person (personhood if you will), and the riskiest of all…that when they are not there…they will be missed.

Missed is the part that creates messiness and awkwardness for human beings. It can be as simple as someone leaving community to join another, moving, or transitioning. When they are an older person struggling with health and a transition to the next life or a new facility happens it is hard, but reconcilable in the lifespan.  Still we are called to allow for humane treatment, and belonging to still exist (something our world needs to work on, check out further thoughts section at the end).

The missing person is grieving the change of their world and what is known, whether our abled world and coding systems state they comprehend or not. The human spirit enters the grief cycle; whichever one your stead fistedly holds to in your theory of change—Kubler-Ross; U Theory, etc. there is a presence on the journey of new and different we have felt the need to quantify. It is hard enough to do when you are adulting. But it becomes even messier when we move into the broader spectrum of family (chosen or blood).

But this is going to hit hard and personal for those families seeking belonging where their child with medical complexities/disabilities/differently-abled is accepted for being a kid. When you have finally found that blessed place. The dramas of driving out the child before belonging because inclusion was enough of a risk… why is belonging riskier? Because you may miss.

How do I know there is a fear of being missed that stops belonging? Simple. To belong, means that individual will be missed. With someone who may not live past toddler years, pre-school, elementary or adolescences it challenges a community’s concept of justice, rightness. It challenges our entire societies basis of quantity of life over quality. It also challenges the ideal that quality comes from being life everyone else in what is termed “typical”.

Even more in our entrenched world it removes the ability for the community to have “the answer” or “the truth” about what happened. For the Christianism (or other forms there of), “well God needed them more than you.” Is going to be vocally called out as “BULL SHIT” whether it is by the family grieving leaving, or fighting back.

Belonging is messy because we risk missing the person who becomes part of our world. That risk of missing means we must be comfortable with having aspects of our world that cannot be explained. We must be comfortable with understanding persons for persons and labels not as defining personality and personhood but rather explaining how the experience the world and what is needed for a strong quality of life. And the greatest fear for those who are spiritual or religious we are confronted with something that conceptually does not make sense, and no one should be able to provide an answer for.

What is the risk of missing?

It is risking being human. It is risking being able to accept tears heal. It is being able to accept that all will morn the empty space in the community regardless of the missing persons age, because damn it, they were part of us.

      AND IT IS BEING OKAY with being in the pain of the unknown.

To risk belonging is hard, because we must risk missing and being missed by one another.

 

Further thoughts from others:

John Swinton interview with United Church Observer

The Solution is Assisted Life

Sharing a Story about Bullying


A person is a person, because he recognizes others as persons.

-Desmond Tutu

The risk of belonging is that it is using the space now open to all through physical, linguistic, theological—inclusionary lens and accessible building…to move beyond simple existence. It is recognizing one another as persons, with intrinsic value, worth, goodness and blessedness.

This is a risk, because opening one self up then you cannot create an shouting match of hatred. There is no threat to you because of rules governing public space to allow all to exist, for they all are included. Now it is at the more personal level, to be able to engage one another as simply persons. This is the grand risk.

Why?

Simple.

No longer the other. But neighbour.

Once neighbour there is the risk of becoming friend. Then that runs the risk of becoming chosen family.

All three of these risks carry with it the greatest risk of all:

You or the neighbour will be missed (grieved) when you are no longer there.

Children are a wonderful gift. They have an extraordinary capacity to see into the heart of things and to expose sham and humbug for what they are.

-Desmond Tutu

This is why children are so wonderful in seeing beyond our worldly imposed bull shit. They see each other, and everyone already simply as they are.

And you know what happens when we take the risk of stepping outside our own boundaries? What happens when we acknowledge the included as persons? When we acknowledge them as neighbour? Perhaps become friends or chosen family?

We belong.

And it is in belonging…that is the greatest risk.

Are you ready for the greatest risk taken in your community? Home? Self?

Are you ready to open yourself up to belong?

For others to belong?

For with the risk of belonging comes a deeper risk.

The risk of being grieved.

Are you willing to open yourself up to the circle of life?

The circle of belonging?


Weird things wind up in one’s mailbox with alumni associations like the one I have with Ambrose University. Like today, where a trial copy of Faith Today with their ½ price subscription offer to alumni and free trial magazine. Now the Evangelical Fellowship is not my theological cup of tea (I know it must shock long time readers), yet the issue contained a 2-page article on inclusion of those with disability within the church community. It started to open a conversation I have been banging away at for decades…church is a place where all are to belong. It is not about creating a “program” or a “ministry for” it is about doing life together and with, it is about valuing the individual for who they are and have been created to be not seeing anyone as less than or in need of healing to fit our schema of wholeness (holiness).

It goes deeper than the functionality of the building. Although physical accessibility is a bonus within a building structure, that is nuts and bolts that can be fixed/adapted. What is harder is changing the heart of the community to full inclusion and acceptance of the wonders that will be opened through the different perspectives that exist across the spectrum of ability.

It was a good article because it was from the perspective of parents who have journeyed like we have as a family, so I thought a little good news in my mail box deserved some good news in cyberspace. For those in Calgary here are 3 spiritual homes we have found that are more the later than the former when it comes to inclusion:

3) St. Mark’s Roman Catholic Church

2) Centennial Presbyterian Church

1) Robert McClure United Church

Remember when we are called to love neighbour as ourselves…it is because we all exist within the Holy Mystery and the Holy Mystery exists within us…and no mistakes were made but perfect as we are meant to be.


For the last few days the journey of the Magi has taken you through previous thoughts of mine. Today marks the beginning of a renewed beginning as I continue to move forward into my new reality in this journey of discovery I have dubbed “My Neighbour”. Over the coming days (my brain and emotions willing, and thank you to the blessing of scheduler) you will see new thoughts and different takes from where I currently sit in my view from a pew (okay fabric chair) on what it means to build a better world where all belong.  So enter if you dare…

It is interesting what triggers flashbacks of pain. Yet within the journey of healing as you sit with the pain, you must look at the good. Sadly, in active ministry in the Christianities when it comes to the building of inclusive communities that challenge the oppressive wealth-patriarchy-traditional structure these can be few and far between. It is why I believe in my heart and through narrative evidence there is such burn out and PTSD among clergy and clergy in training. Why we can no longer fill our pulpits in the anthropological traditions of and out of Judeo-Christian.

Unless you break it down to the person. I wrote over a year ago about the dichotomy of acceptance versus rejection when my son was cast out by a “new thought centre” for being his joyous self and contrasted it with the acceptance from the pulpit in a Roman Catholic Church.

celtic crossThis year discoursing with our current pastor around the journey of ministry, it is astounding a year on, we have finally found a placement of celebration of our son person within a protestant church. Two different theologies and sets of doctrines, that show when you do not get lost within the ideology but the let the Spirit reign a community of inclusion is created.

Now this is not saying there has not been communities of warm welcome or belonging within our journey. For there has been. But this time of reflection (yes it takes approximately 4 unknown neuro-events to complete each post of mine currently) that I have pondered the true difference. What has spoken through the heart is the difference between a service/ministry designed to/for an individual or population contrasted to a service/ministry with the individual or population within the broader community. The later being the one where true inclusion takes roots for it affirms the full humanity of the individual and their place in community.

francis

Much like the Nativity story where the Holy Mystery (that exists within us and us within her) affirmed the full humanity of Mary despite the patriarchal-empire communal sin of her times. A communal sin we carry forward today and the populations become moving targets. This is the type of empire that needs to die, and it begins from the common good, the common teaching. The buzzword currently is holistic, root is whole or holy. It is the understanding the Cosmic Christ is ignited within each us, through the cosmic dust/holy breath as we are all interwoven in the beautiful tapestry of creation that is the Holy Mystery. Where our legends/myths/beliefs tell us the holy narrative of why, and our philosophy-rational-intellectual-sciences tell us the how of being.

Yet it is more. It is understanding the other, as neighbour not other. It is knowing that to be truly inclusive we must meet everyone where they are at and build a community that includes them in how the experience the world. As went enter the journey of the new beginnings of a new year. The question is before each of us individually, communally and interdependently whether in a religious setting or simply a community or a home:

How do we all belong?

 

globalSome of the greatest studies/explorations of faith I have led in my time have been those that have experienced texts cast aside by Imperial Christianities or those of other wisdom traditions, here are some links for further exploration alone or in community:

The Apocrypha, Deuterocanonical, Lost Texts of Christianities, and some Gnostic wisdom: http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/apo/index.htm

Internet Sacred Text Archive: http://www.sacred-texts.com/

New Thought Library online: http://newthoughtlibrary.com/

 


“You are right. You can fire me, but you cannot tell me what to do.”

-Jesse Stone to the Town Council (Jesse Stone series)

J.S. Woodsworth was a Methodist minister, a founding member and leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, a labour activist who had the literal beating scars from police to prove it. He had worked tirelessly in his life to get Canada to treat all Canadians as Brother Jesus implored us to. Yet his values of anti-war and stopping evil entered conflict within him as he sat as a MP in Canada’s Parliament when it came time to declare war on Nazi Germany.

See he was against war. More than just conscientious objection, he saw in war for a way of the 1% to get wealthier through munitions and more efficient ways to exterminate human beings manufacturing, and as a way the wealthy used the draft to cull the herds of poor they saw as taxing on the country’s system. Yet, he also believed the horrors against humanity that his fellow caucus members in the CCF reported back about Germany and their program.

So what was he to do?

On that fateful day, Woodsworth would lose his job as leader of his party and movement, and not be elected again. As he would stand on the side of saving lives of poor Canadians and voting against the war. The one vote against, while the rest of his party voted with the other parties to enter the war. It is not about whether Woodsworth’s decision for anyone else was right or wrong, he had a conviction and made a choice. In that choice, he faced the consequences.

In 1990’s Alberta Kevin Taft as a governmental employee would face a similar choice as he recorder in Shredding the Public Interest (1997) where he recounted how one party rule was not for the betterment of Albertans. As it was in shredding documents that showed the government was intentionally screwing over the elders that built the province, and it resulted in a loss of his job.

Another choice of conviction.

These are hard choices to make in life. Yet we are all faced with them. Those moments when we need to decide, is this the hill I die on? Or does this path tie to other values of mine that can lead me forward. A former co-worker once described working with me as an acquired taste, for that resiliency. There was the grand mission of trying to make my corner of the world a better place where I could follow many paths. Yet in those instances where my heart became set on what was right in a situation whether it be for a group, a person or a practice there was no shaking the ground beneath my feet…and yes in those instances it did simply become one of “you as an organization can continue on that path but it will be without me.” Sometimes I chose to end the professional relationship, other times it was chosen for me. Yet regardless of how it ended, I would leave with my head up knowing I had made a choice much like those examples that opened this reflection.

Whether it was choosing communities of full inclusion regardless of gender identity, sexuality, mental health, being differently abled or cultural origin, which was a stand I needed to take on more than one occasion in my service in religions and spirituality.

Putting sitting government’s feet to the fire as a journalist, writer, speaker, activist, and student.

Challenging the norms of an institution to hopefully re-think how they existed to be a more open space.

Even in those moments where a group would pink slip me or so radically change my job description at a public meeting that my role was publicly voted out with me in the room, receiving death threats, being black listed from press access to certain government officials, or  one community having me resign to protect my children, only to have the things we had rattled the establishment to institute slowly roll out those changes that so challenged them (essentially using my family and I as a sacrificial lamb or a scapegoat).

Remembering a famous line, I had used in many battles:

This is about right and wrong for our community. You can fire me, I was looking for a job before I came here and I will find one no matter how I leave here. But what will not change is what those you try to segregate see as the true heart of their community and what they choose.

To the current challenge of where my family worships and the challenge it places on my being. This congregation has been good and inclusive, welcoming and warm. Yet it is part of a tradition that many times knocked me around because it did not want inclusiveness or change, other congregations where literally I had to surrender my ministry because I refused to be apart of acts of segregation.

The value challenge that I can feel Woodsworth must have gone through on vote day. Which value overtakes the other?

Does the brand matter as much as the local practice?

Finding a resting place of inclusion where my kids can be who they are called to be, where the family can be active. Yet part of me, still awaits the other shoe to drop. That tiny voice in the back of my head that can it be too good to be true? A simple way station where we have been apart of many that have just not gotten it. Where words and practice did not align? Perhaps the heart is weary, and this truth has no reconciliation left.

Or perhaps…

Simply perhaps…

Sometimes the battle has ripples that are left unseen for some…and…

Perhaps those ripples outside, need to simply be experienced. Only time will tell with the shattered bridges, burnt souls, and cast aside lives…if there is enough to continue moving forward, but I do know despite the challenges life has laid before me. So yes I have made a choice, one that sits with my values.

Despite the winding roads of life’s journey, one thing will not change.

That is the central core of my faith system.

Inclusion.

And yes my journey of understanding who my neighbour is has made that simple community aspect a non-negotiable.

What are your non-negotiable? Those ones where you literally would put livelihood on the line? In one word, what is that non-negotiable value for you?


Chapter 106 (The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ)

The Christines are in Magdala. Jesus heals a man who was blind, dumb and obsessed. He teaches the people. While he speaks his mother, brothers and Miriam come to him. He teaches a lesson on family relationship. He introduces Miriam to the people and she sings her songs of victory.

1. Magdala is beside the sea, and here the teachers taught.
2. A man obsessed, and who was blind and dumb was brought, and Jesus spoke the Word, and lo, the evil spirits went away; the man spoke out, his eyes were opened and he saw.
3. This was the greatest work that men had seen the master do, and they were all amazed.
4. The Pharisees were there, and they were full of jealous rage; they sought a cause whereby they might condemn.
5. They said, Yes, it is true that Jesus does a multitude of mighty works; but men should know that he is leagued with Beelzebul.
6. He is a sorcerer, a black magician of the Simon Cerus type; he works as Jannes and as Jambres did in Moses’ day.
7. For Satan, prince of evil spirits, is his stay by night and day and in the name of Satan he casts the demons out, and in his name he heals the sick and raises up the dead.
8. But Jesus knew their thoughts; he said to them, You men are masters, and you know the law; whatever is arrayed against itself must fall; a house divided cannot stand;
9. A kingdom warring with itself is brought to naught.
10. If Satan casts the devil out, how can his kingdom stand?
11. If I, by Beelzebul, cast devils out, by whom do you cast devils out?
12. But if I, in the holy name of God, cast devils out, and make the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, the blind to see, the dumb to speak, has not God’s kingdom come to you?
13. The Pharisees were dumb; they answered not.
14. As Jesus spoke a messenger approached and said to him, Your mother and your brothers wish to speak with you.
15. And Jesus said, Who is my mother? and my brothers, who are they?
16. And then he spoke a word aside unto the foreign masters and the twelve; he said,
17. Behold, men recognise their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers here in flesh; but when the veil is rent and men walk in the realms of soul,
18. The tender lines of love that bind the groups of fleshly kin in families will fade away.
19. Not that the love for anyone will be the less; but men will see in all the motherhood, the fatherhood, the sisterhood, the brotherhood of man.
20. The family groups of earth will all be lost in universal love and fellowship divine.
21. Then to the multitudes he said, Whoever lives the life and does the will of God is child of God and is my mother, father, sister, friend.
22. And then he went aside to speak to mother and his other kindred in the flesh.
23. But he saw more than these. The maiden who once thrilled his very soul with love. a love beyond the love of any fleshly kin;
24. Who was the sorest tempter in the temple Heliopolis beside the Nile, who sung for him the sacred songs, was there.
25. The recognition was of kindred souls, and Jesus said,
26. Behold, for God has brought to us a power men cannot comprehend, a power of purity and love;
27. To make more light the burdens of the hour, to be a balm for wounded souls;
28. To win the multitude to better ways by sacred song and holy life.
29. Behold, for Miriam who stood beside the sea and sung the song of victory when Moses led the way, will sing again.
30. And all the choirs of heaven will join and sing the glad refrain:
31. Peace, peace on earth; good will to men!
32. And Miriam stood before the waiting throngs and sung again the songs of victory, and all the people said, Amen.

One of the most challenging parts of is the question of healings in the 21st century world of inclusion and acceptance of mental health concerns; disabilities, and life experienced with chronic illness. One of the things I have begun to groove on in Levi’s early 20th century metaphysical-universalist retelling of the Story of Jesus Bar Josephson channeling the Cosmic Christ, is that he gets to the heart of the point.

Where it is easy on the surface to go “healing” crazy. That creates a world where those who are differently abled in some way can be viewed as “less than” in the local religious community. The old trollops and two-bitters of “well if you had more faith” or “if you prayed more” that you would be healed to name a few. But this misses the point.

See the Bible stories were very much of their time with the human writers behind it. And as of their time, like now, the people were held hostage by oppressive forces. Those forces being the Roman Empire in the Christian Testament, that saw the “less than” (that being anyone not Roman Born) as nothing more than property. Yet within that oppressed ranks, the temple authorities of the Sadducees and Pharisees created a hierarchy of belonging, that said who was and who was not in tune with the Holy Mystery based on their outward appearance.

This is the throw down Jesus lays out for these vipers as his cousin John dubbed them. For by doing the healing the hierarchy was shattered and the falsity of the laws created by the oppressive religion for nothing more than power were revealed to the masses. This was the challenge that as 106:13 states the Pharisees were stuck dumb (unable to speak)…they had nothing to stand on now to create any barriers of superiority.

Yet Jesus then goes forward in the throw down. As these ridiculous laws of where special needs, disabilities, illness came from…it was more, as these same rules also spoke to what family was:

  1. As Jesus spoke a messenger approached and said to him, Your mother and your brothers wish to speak with you.
    15. And Jesus said, Who is my mother? and my brothers, who are they?
    16. And then he spoke a word aside unto the foreign masters and the twelve; he said,
    17. Behold, men recognise their mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers here in flesh; but when the veil is rent and men walk in the realms of soul,
    18. The tender lines of love that bind the groups of fleshly kin in families will fade away.
    19. Not that the love for anyone will be the less; but men will see in all the motherhood, the fatherhood, the sisterhood, the brotherhood of man.
    20. The family groups of earth will all be lost in universal love and fellowship divine.

    106:14-20

Jesus removes the veil that it is blood/dna/culture/religion/ideology that creates groupings. This was not true. This is what created the social situation where people were literally dying in the gutters of the ancient world. It created have and have nots, it allowed the spiritualization of suffering and superiority. 21. Then to the multitudes he said, Whoever lives the life and does the will of God is child of God and is my mother, father, sister, friend. (106:21).  What binds us? The Holy Mystery. Releasing our own selfishness, and entering into the true communion of family with one another in equality, justice, love and respect is what allows hope to grow. Love to transform.

This is the story of what the healing were getting at. Shoving forward that those who were cast out due to differences, were actually resonating within the Holy Mystery already. The ancient Mayans would hold high in esteem those we would say are “special needs” today, for they had a deeper communion with the Holy and creation.

Yet today, we are falling into the same fallacy. Allowing labels to rend us apart as community, neigh, rend us apart as family that is what the collective of humanity is. This is what Brother Jesus spoke/taught/lived against, and yes, even lost his life for this message on what we dub Good Friday (to happen tomorrow in Christendom the world over). A life taken speaking truth of love and inclusion. Challenging societal labelling norms of oppression and destruction. Sound familiar? Are we ready to be the voice seen/heard 2000 years ago?

To hit the home run, Jesus reminded the Pharisees the true equality of their world. Back to the Exodus, which ties back to the original blessing of creation, it was not Moses who sung the victory song, but another priest:

M-I-R-I-AM

  1. To make more light the burdens of the hour, to be a balm for wounded souls;
    28. To win the multitude to better ways by sacred song and holy life.
    29. Behold, for Miriam who stood beside the sea and sung the song of victory when Moses led the way, will sing again.
    30. And all the choirs of heaven will join and sing the glad refrain:
    31. Peace, peace on earth; good will to men!
    32. And Miriam stood before the waiting throngs and sung again the songs of victory, and all the people said, Amen.

This Maundy Thursday, as we sup one last time, wash feet, serve one another as Brother Jesus showed us love in action before the betrayal…

Are we ready to live out the love in action and transform our family?

For the ultimate healing is not to make everyone the same. The ultimate healing is drawing the circle wide to include the beautiful rainbow that is the creation of the Holy Mystery so all have a place in the family. All have a seat at the family table to break bread and celebrate, sing, dance and laugh together.

The true transfiguration into a new world. Truly answering the question, What Would Love Do?

So are you ready to find your answer.

Are you ready to Transfigure our world?


I woke up the morning of December 19 for work with my shirt soaked with tears. It is not a normal occurrence, but my son had a rough night of emotional pain and crawled into bed and couldn’t stop crying. Why you ask?  Well that is an intriguing story that actually started a reminiscence for long time readers.

A few years back when I was editor of socialist paper, I had a column dubbed “View from the Pew” where I would ruminate on the crossroads of the spiritual and political. As those in Canada know (or may need to re-learn) that the progressive movements started over coffee and tea in church basements in trying to build our just society.

A society that a spiritual centre dubs in their Metro paper ads as “inclusive” and my son learned far to devastatingly that this was false on the morning of December 18, which led to the tears overnight.

It was a secondary response from a pulpit that was anything but inclusive, and sadly so different from what he, in his joy, was used to feeling/experiencing.  Our world is not comfortable with those blessed and experiencing the world differently abled, we like to sidebar or over see or exclude. As some may realize, my family is not like that, when we speak of an open door for anyone, and even to loss of spiritual homes we have lived this.

So a few years back, we were attending and about to join the Roman Catholic church (I know shocking with their conservative theology, but bear with me on this)…and my sons joyful noise was addressed from the pulpit during High Mass, and y’know what the Priest came back with?  Hallejuah that there is someone so alive with love and the Spirit here today, that is how we all should be in our faith and living of love.

A faith home, that also had leadership that essentially stated all were welcome, all ages were welcome, and those raising complaints would be dealt with by the leadership for not including all God’s children.

Fast forward a few years and we are a family in a spiritual centre that speaks of inclusion, that never raises any issue with my son’s joyful noise. One time, the av guy had to come speak with us, he was respectful needing us to move from the back to the front so the sounds did not overcome the recording microphone. We got it, and even though the stadium seating stair case at SAIT Orpheus Theatre are not easy for someone with Cerebral Palsy to move down, supported by me, that is not always the strongest of backs, we made it work.

Then as my son in his grief cycle of loss, got to the point he wanted to go back to “church” to hear music, and hear about Santa…we went.  The morning music was about Santa, he was rocking in joy, and excited with pics of his buddy (Santa) up on the screen…when it happened.

The Minister decided it was time to attack as he was taking a moment to gleefully calm down. Asking him to move to the back or not make a noise while she talked. My son said No. He knew there was no option to move to the back, and by asking he was being kicked out.  With the next noise he made in glee…my son and me left. It was a hard walk up, as he did not want to go, but I could not deal with any more spiritual assault from the pulpit to my little boy. Eyes were averted.

Of this great spiritual place that boasts 9 other “deeply trained” practitioners and ministers, none followed, no members of the congregation that always said how they enjoyed my son followed to see if we were okay…sorry check that…one loan lady came running out in tears pleading for us to go back in saying he wasn’t bad, but that’s all my son could repeat:

Santa thinks I’m naughty. I spent time calming him, soothing him, reminding him no he was not naughty, this is the ugliness of prejudice that he is far to young to experience.

A few members came out to use the washroom or get a drink, he would say hi, they would not make eye contact and hustle past completely ignoring him. We were waiting as I did not want my daughter to feel the pain of being cast out to by pulling her out of Funday early.

But as we waited,

I watched the sparkle leave my son’s eye. His joy fade to a pale facade, as each of these “holy” people ran away…

my little boy who a few years earlier when we became members thanked this place for loving him…looked at me and said, “Daddy they no love me.”

Was there an outreach for an apology? A feeble attempt of the, it was handled badly moments…made worse by the centre believing they could post the video unedited of the talk, so that I actually had to contact them to deal with it in a respectful way…because that act in itself tells me you saw nothing wrong with the actions as a community, and do not see him as a full person.

But it was the ringing silence that morning that struck me…one person whose heart is bigger than her, but no one else, and those that did averted like you think we had the plague. That is when it hit me. The progressive spiritual movements were in shock when someone like Trump road a wave of lowest common denominator to the presidency and in shock asked how?

Sunday Morning December 18 when my little boy was asked to leave a spiritual gathering over joy in Santa, and all but one person in a 100+ person gathering remained silent. Sat in silent solidarity with the most vulnerable being cast out…that is how a USA 2016 election result happens, you are now part of the tipping point to the opposite of love and inclusion.

This is my humble view from my pew (or in this case padded seat in an Orpheus Theatre to a wooden bench in the SAIT Student Centre).

-30-

 


Call to Worship:

Lord, make us instruments of your peace.

Where there is hatred, let us sow love,

Where there is injury, pardon

Where there is discord, union

Where there is doubt, faith

Where there is despair, hope

Where there is darkness, light

Where there is sadness, joy

Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,

Seek to be understood as to understand

Seek to be loved as to love

For it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Dancing the Circle Wider (speaking notes, but the spirit does lead)

July 20, 2014 @ Centennial Presbyterian Church (10:30 a.m.)

Ezekial 16:49

Matthew 25: 31-46

quote for sermon 2

And with those two scriptures, and the quote I just shared to open, everyone lets out a groan thinking, oh there goes the poverty worker again preaching on about helping the needy and trying to make those haves feel bad…

Or not. For if you were here last week we discovered our voice through the story of a peasant girl of some note, Mary, Mother of Jesus. So this week, we hear her son’s words.

For you see when I hear these words, I reflect on these stories I truly think about the heart they are speaking too, the spirit of the words, not the letter of the words. Literal reading of holy stories is such a late 19th to 20th century phenomenon; we miss the true mysticism of these words.

Who are the poor? What were the deeper sins of Sodom and Gomorrah? Who are the least of these?

Jesus said his life fulfilled The Law & The Prophets, Ezekiel’s words challenge the institutional church to actually live their faith, not hide behind words. Jesus’ calls us out of our comfort zone. The true depth wasn’t the “sin of the week” that one can target to make themselves feel good, na, and it wasn’t even speaking about have and have not’s, although that is a part of it. These speak to the heart of community, family, and something that needs to be challenged within our faith, we are not a community hierarchy, and we are a circle with a heart beating in the centre called Jesus. Why a circle? Because it speaks to the equality of all.

Think about it, when you boil Sodom and Gomorrah down, the true sin was inhospitality, brutality, and exertion of power not love. Who have we ever made feel unwelcome? Personally? Communally? Who do we need to open the circle wide to so Ezekiel will not be speaking to our institution?

Yet even more challenging is this teaching of Jesus. Where he points to those that if the community, their family, that which the church says we are with humanity, do not choose to care for then we are not doing our faith. Who are the least of these for us in the 21st century church?

There’s the big meta issues, the Drop-In Centre has a banner on it inviting one inside to meet the other 1%; we can talk of those trafficked into human slavery of all brutalities; former prisoners and addicts. These are the easy ones for a person of faith to name of because, well they are sort of already named on the page. But who are those that truly need an uplifting and loving community to exist?

I could share the experience my family had running the Rainbow Chapel out of our living room in Rundle, where we became a hub of love if you will. Where neighbours say no problem, and some still do, to knock on the door, many times where we would sit down for a meal and be throwing on extras because our door was a rotating experience of who was going to be at family dinner that night. Our kids made many friends and discovered many new aunts and uncles and being loved on from what some would say is the fringes.

But why?

Simple, our circle was drawn wide. As an aside, at my Mum’s funeral I discovered she had opened our home on the block when first built running a free food Hubbard for neighbours in need.

Who should draw your circle wide? Who are you comfortable with coming into your home and being friends with?

Is it a young adult recently out of prison attempting to turn their life around? Widowers? Seniors? A family whose loved one is in prison and needs support? A single teenage mother or father? That couple not married, but living together in a deeper love than most married couples? Differently abled persons? Those so spiritually abused they have no desire to know the loving God, until they come to a family and discover through the lives of others? Someone in the process of transitioning genders? An older gay couple struggling to adopt their first children? An older woman coming into her sexuality and love of women for the first time in her life? Someone throwing off the patriarchal shackles of their Christianity and learning to dance the circle of a loving God? Children gleefully playing and discovering together, teenagers seeking a safe space to be themselves and for many it simply is a place they do not have to be the label their school community has placed on them. New Canadians struggling wit the immigration process, awaiting for years their family members, admitting they left to come here when their child was born and now their child back home is almost school age, sharing joy when word comes of the reunification. Watching language barriers melt away through the youngest members. It is letting the abused in, and not judging or pushing, but just giving a space they can exist and rediscover themselves.  Someone struggling to be seen beyond their previous labels of addict, nerd, sex worker, pimp, criminal and just wanting to be their name for once….

Who are those you feel God calling you to draw the circle wide to include?

(Leave a space of silence for congregation to respond)

A church that draws the circle wide is one, as Pope Francis said, that has gone outside of itself into the streets of its community and taken its lumps to get to know its neighbours. It is one that has celebrated triumphs, wept and grieved with those in crisis, had their hearts fall a little when someone embraced continues a negative choice of life… yet you stand awaiting a possible good outcome or just a shoulder for the tears.

Are we ready to heed Jesus words’ a seek those others may class as least, others may state are “sinner”, others or even ourselves may cast a label on to keep them outside the circle, are we ready to widen the circle and welcome them in?

Will we dance with God today and meet Jesus in each person and welcome them as such into our circle?